Cardiovascular diseases remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Researchers have been looking to manufacture blood vessels or develop solutions for patients with individual needs. Scientists in China have created artificial blood vessels which combine mechanical strength and promote new cell growth. These vessels consist of three layers as opposed to the existing grafts which are single or double layered.
The existing method of treating blood vessel blockages is by redirecting blood flow around the blocked area. Vascular grafts are surgically attached to an obstructed blood vessel to permanently redirect blood flow, such as in coronary bypass surgery. Traditional grafts work by re-purposing existing vessels from the patient’s own body or from a suitable donor. However, these are often insufficient because of the limited supply in a patient’s body. The researchers in Shanghai University’s Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Centre used micro-imprinting, a type of 3D printing, and electro-spinning techniques to develop a vascular graft.
“The composite vascular grafts could be better candidates for blood vessel repair,” said Yuanyuan Liu, an associate professor at the Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Center. Her team has detailed their current research in the journal AIP Advances, from AIP Publishing.
As a technique electro-spinning has already been in use. It is a process which uses an electrical charge to draw liquid into very fine fibres. However, the resulting structure is not very rigid – a common problem with previous synthetic designs. To compensate for this, the RMEC research team designed the three-layer model, in which the mixture was electrospun onto both sides of a micro-imprinted middle layer of a biodegradable polymer commonly used in biomedical applications. The ends of this sheet were then folded and attached to make a tube-like vessel that according to the researchers, more accurately simulates a real blood vessel.
A significant amount of work still remains before prospective human trials. However, Liu and her group are optimistic about the future of their research and their immediate goal is to test the efficacy of these implants in an animal model.
The original paper can be accessed here.